Chaucer's knowledge of literature and languages makes him truly a European writer. He was familiar with the works of contemporary French poets and with those of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio. Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, Boethius are recognizable classical references.
The book of the Duchesse (1369): is an elegy for the second wife of John 949d32j of Gaunt. The form is that of a dream-allegory and the verse in octosyllabic couplets.
The Parliament of Fouls (1380): Chaucer adopts a "rhyme royal": a seven-line stanza rhyming: AB ABB CC. It's a dream allegory celebrating St. Valentine's day.
The legend of good women (1385): perfect "love cases" made trough the praised of faithful and passionate lovers. Cleopatra, Lucretia, Philomela are models of woman
Troylous and Criseyde (1380-1385): is mythological work. Its source is Boccaccio's "Filostrato". Classical tradition is with the courtly tradition in the character of Troylus.
The Canterbury tales (1387): result of the combination of the experience of the man of his age and the experience of a skilful artist.
Knowledge of human nature.
Humour and realism.
Chaucer puts himself in the position of an observer (while obviously being the narrator). This point of view favours satirical comment (his point of view is middle class).
Characters: they reflect the social pyramid of the society in which he lived and its crucial transformation from a feudal world to an early commercial one. Characters are class prototypes and not only individual portraits.
English Church is portrayed in the tales of the prioress, the monk, the friar, the pardoner and the parson.
The tales of the knight and the squire give us a glimpse of the "old" aristocracy changing its traditional values.
The wife of Bath, the merchant and the man of law represent the "new" rising class (while artisans are shown in the character of the miller).
The language that characters speak is typical of a social status.
The narrator is typologically similar to a middle-class-man, not covering the omniscient role he usually held in medieval work. Thus he establishes a direct, "equal-to-equal" relationship to his audience.
The knight: a traditional character, the man of continuity with the past. To be noticed Chaucer's modernity in making this knight worthy, not because he's a knight, but because of his personal qualities. His present look is in contrast with his glorious past. He's poor but still a worthy man.
The squire: the portrait of the son is different from that of the father (the knight). He has a different set of values: usefulness, personal interest rather than ideals of chivalry. Formal attachment to tradition.
The prioress: daughter of nobility, fascinated by manners as a sign of distinction. The result is her constant acting and her carelessness for matters more serious than manners. Humorous hints become satire when it's evident that her pity directed to animals would hardly ever reach fellow human beings. Even in her arc a show. Her lack of religious feelings is clear when we consider how she looks. The ambiguity of her vocation (mistress/nun) is kept to the last word where the motto sums it up. Superficiality and selfishness.
The monk: he cares only about himself. Bitter portrait. Denunciation of his abuses. Physical traits reveal his greed, gluttony and sloth. Psychological traits reveal ignorance and capacity of exploiting others.
Wife of Bath: she belongs to a rising middle class. Chaucer praises her skill (cloth making) and her exuberance. She's dynamic, natural; she doesn't act. Her best virtue is truthfulness.
The poor parson: the ideal figure of the priest. He's generous, learned, and spiritually concerned. He combines work and thought. Chaucer seems to imply that there's nothing to reform in him.
Chaucer's fame rests on three facts:
he told many good stories well
his verse is musical and highly polished
his humour is unequalled.
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